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Productivity from Laura Stack

  1. Meetings
    • Schedule meetings involving brainstorming, problem solving or strategic thinking in the morning when productivity is usually highest.
    • Schedule routine staff meetings, project updates, or information-only meetings during lulls in productivity. Better yet, forget the meeting and share or distribute information with email or memos.
    • Always use an agenda and always start on time.
    • Schedule meetings at odd starting times like 10:17 a.m. Try it and you'll be amazed how prompt, or even early, everyone is.
  2. Phone
    • Answer it. By the time someone leaves a message, you listen to it, write down the details, and call back; you could have saved time by simply answering.
    • Use voice mail strategically. Let your voice mail pick up when you have a pressing deadline.
    • Keep the conversation focused. If a conversation is off-target, use your agenda to bring it back on track.
    • Return all phone calls at once, if possible. You will naturally get right to point, saving you time.
    • Use a wireless headset so you can use your hands to complete minor tasks.
    • When you're going out of town and need to connect with co-workers, schedule a conference call to handle all matters once a day.
    • Prioritize the order in which you return calls.
  3. Email
    • Set aside a specific number of times a day to check and handle your email rather than doing it every time the impulse strikes you.
    • Use the subject field to indicate contents and priority.
    • Agree on acronyms to use that quickly identify actions. For example, your team could use to mean "Action Required" or for the Monthly Status Report.
    • Include the word "Long" in the subject header so the recipient knows the message will take time to read.
    • Sending a one-line text message to a Blackberry? Send the message in the subject line, using to signal the End of Message.
    • Instead of forwarding a series of forwarded messages, write a brief summary of the key points or select and highlight the essential information. That way the recipient doesn't have to waste time scrolling through pages of information.
    • Turn off your email program's email notification feature.
  4. Clutter
    • Discard. If you tell yourself "I might need this some day," get rid of it permanently.
    • Delegate. Hand off as much as you reasonably can. We cannot manage by doing it ourselves in the Information Age, so give away as much as possible.
    • Delete. Stop any reports, memos, letters, minutes, catalogs, magazines, and junk mail that you don't need or have time to read.
    • Organize files based on the frequency they are accessed: at least daily, monthly, yearly, and rarely.
  5. Interruptions
    • Agree on a signal to let co-workers know when someone is not to be interrupted unless it is an emergency. For example, turn your nameplate around or hang a colored ribbon on your cubicle.
    • Set aside "down time," periods of time every day where you cannot interrupt another employee, schedule a meeting, or answer your phone. Inversely, establish fixed office hours when you can be interrupted.
    • Schedule regular check-in times for updates from people you must talk to often.
    • Go into hiding. If you absolutely have to get away for a solid hour without being interrupted, find an empty conference room or borrow a vacationing colleague's office.
    • Use verbal tactics and body language. Stand up when interrupted and immediately state how much time you have.